Soccer has been growing in popularity in the U.S. in recent years, but most of the announcers for the game still come from other countries. John Strong is one of the few American play by play announcers for Fox Sports' Major League Soccer broadcasts, and he started here in the Pacific Northwest. Strong began his career announcing his high school football games on the internet, and quickly worked his way up to one of the TV announcers for the Portland Timbers.
On early success:
The first ever Timbers MLS game in 2011 was in Denver. And I was at the time 25 and I remember in the minutes leading up to the game I actually got a little bit teary-eyed ... 'this is all happening!' As a young kid, at the time ... when British voices were seen as in vogue because that's what you need to have to have an authentic soccer broadcast ... and I had next to me Robbie Earl, an incredibly accomplished player and broadcaster ... I had a lot of insecurity, truth be told, about what I was doing.”
On being a Blazers fan and the appeal of sports announcing:
The way that I lived my fandom as a young kid was through the voice of Bill Shonley. And I think in retrospect the romanticism of that voice being the connection between you and the team ... and that always really appealed to me ... being able to be a voice that narrates, in this case for me, the growth of soccer, and the burgeoning of a new era for the sport in this country.”
On his personal play by play style:
Rather than shout 'GOOOAAAALL!' —which I can't do, it sounds terrible, it's not authentic. But what I will do is if there's a player who has a vowel sound at the end of their last name I'll [draw out the last syllable of the player's name] ... that's an influence from Spanish language broadcasting.”
On the popularity of soccer in the US:
The growth of soccer in this country has been generational. There was never going to be a big bang moment of the U.S. wins a World Cup ... and all of a sudden 40 million Americans wake up soccer crazy. ... A lot of the predictions trying to tie youth participation to fans being adults ... completely false. Otherwise tetherball would be a sport we see on ESPN2.
What it took was a generational shift ... When I was in elementary school, we all played soccer on the weekends, but at recess we were all wearing our Blazers or our football jerseys playing kickball. I go past [my old elementary school now] and they're all playing soccer on the playground. ”